The American healthcare system functions pretty differently than healthcare in Europe — and most healthcare systems in other first world countries, for that matter. With the ongoing healthcare debate in America (from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act to Senator Sanders’ Medicare-For-All proposal), many people have begun to ask why we can’t have a system like Canada, the U.K., France, or most other European nations. In order to decide whether or not those types of systems would be suitable for America (a debate we will not delve into here), we first have to understand how healthcare in Europe works.
How Healthcare in Europe Works
Generally speaking, most European nations (in addition to others around the world) have some type of universal healthcare. According to the definition provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), this means that everyone has equal access to quality healthcare that improves the health of patients and that seeking such care would not cause financial harm to those receiving it.
While it’s easy for Americans to generalize European healthcare into one giant conglomerate of universal coverage, there are actually many different systems across the continent. Each country has figured out their own way of organizing their insurance companies, doctors, and hospital systems. But regardless of country, healthcare in Europe is designed with the same goal in mind: to make sure every person has access to basic health services.
Given that European nations have all been around far longer than America, they’ve tried almost every possible scenario and, for the most part, they’ve landed largely on three systems: single-payer, socialized, and privatized, but regulated. Of course, there’s quite a bit of variety between countries and no two systems are alike.